Searching the Holy Grail: Some thoughts on the future of cognitive style research
Considerable attention has been devoted to cognitive styles since the beginning of the previous century. Cognitive styles are extensively studied in diverse research domains. This large interest led to a wide diversity of cognitive style theories and studies. The development of the cognitive style field shows some similarity with the story of the ‘blind men and the elephant’, with researchers tending to study only one part of the whole, but none with full understanding. The aim of this article is to build further on previous suggestions for the advancement of the cognitive style field by focusing on six relevant, critical issues in the area of the theory, the measurement, and the practical relevance of cognitive styles: (1) the need for conceptual clarification to situate cognitive styles in the individual differences field, (2) the need for an overarching, contextualized individual differences model, (3) towards longitudinal, contextual research designs to find the origins of cognitive style, (4) the search for the fundamental cognitive style dimensions in the myriad of cognitive style models, (5) an evolution from self-report questionnaires to multi-source, multi-method approaches, and (6) bridging the relevance gap by different approaches of knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination. On the basis of an overview of past and present cognitive style research, we purport to suggest an agenda for future research in the field of cognitive styles. Ideally, cognitive style research evolves towards a ‘pragmatic science’, which combines high theoretical rigour with high practical relevance.
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